Various Artists: No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion

Various Artists
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion

Finally, a box set that deserves the following praise: One day, when my grandchildren ask, "Poppy-poop, what was '70s punk rock like?" I'll beam this collection straight into their brain chips, immediately following it with Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols, Big Hits of Mid-America Volume Three, and maybe History in 3 Chords: Milwaukee Alternative Bands 1973-1982. And just as they're screaming, "Stop! No more!," tears streaming from their eyes, I'll say, "You know, '80s punk was a lot better, anyway, so let me give you the rest of my old punk collection"--and then they'll chop off my toes with a light saber.

No Thanks! is nearly perfect, which makes its exclusions all the more jarring. The 100-song set updates, and in countless ways improves upon, Rhino's out-of-print 1993 DIY series, which contained many of the same tracks. So much is right here--the decision to kick off with the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop," the inclusion of rarities like Television's "Little Johnny Jewel," the space reserved for Ohio (Devo, Pere Ubu, Dead Boys), the many pre-punk bands (the Modern Lovers, the Runaways, the New York Dolls), and finally, at long last, a canon-building comp that acknowledges the existence of hardcore (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and, um, Fear). But where the Clash were conspicuous in their absence from DIY, now the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. form the gaping hole at the center of these four discs. It's like having a British Invasion box without the Beatles. And unlike Rhino's classic first Nuggets set, the upper Midwest is nowhere to be found. (Instead of a second song by the fucking Stranglers, couldn't they have included the Suicide Commandos?)

The problem is reflected in the liner notes, which commit the cardinal sin of punk--being boring. Where advance press releases advertised, "Rhino asks, what is punk?" the booklet never adequately tackles the question. This explains, I suspect, the inclusion of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going out with Him?"--historically relevant, maybe, but not punk at all. And if No Thanks! were going to dip into the '80s, why shoehorn in Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" instead of, say, Mission of Burma or the Dicks? The massive rumble you hear is the sound of aging punks everywhere making similar complaints--and buying the thing anyway.

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